House Judiciary Presses Google CEO on Project Dragonfly

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Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee today, answering questions regarding China, privacy policies, search biases, and data collection.

During the hearing, Pichai discussed the controversial Project Dragonfly, which is a secret project to create a censored, surveillance-enabling search tool for China, which would directly conflict with Google’s 2010 decision to pull out of the Chinese market to avoid working with government censors. Approximately 300 Google employees have signed a letter calling to cancel the project.

He confirmed that a prototype for Project Dragonfly has been worked on internally, after initially denying that there are plans to launch a search service in China. Pichai said that there have always been projects that Google works on that have never been launched and that the effort to build the search engine is limited. He denied sharing any user data with China at this time.

“This effort is currently an internal effort, and I’m happy to consult to be transparent to the extent we take steps towards launching a product in China,” he said.

Pichai further addressed the public controversy surrounding Project Dragonfly.

“Anytime we look to operate in a country, we would look at what the conditions are to operate. There are times in the past we have debated the conditions to operate and we explore a wide range of possibilities,” Pichai said.

Google’s privacy policies and data collection practices were also under the microscope during the hearing. Pichai said that the data being collected from users does depend on what applications the user opts into and that he would like to simplify the process of turning privacy settings off and on.

Pichai also faced questions from the committee, led by Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., and Ranking Member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., on possible biases on Google’s website that prioritized liberal news sources over conservative ones. He insisted that when it comes to matters of civic discourse, that Google remains non-partisan.

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